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Mr. Thursday Night

Mr. Thursday NightAs a television producer, Tufts graduate Ben Silverman is churning out hit after hit. But his long-range goals extend far beyond Hollywood.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.20.07] Flip through the major networks during prime time on a Thursday night and, chances are, you’ll land on a show produced by Tufts graduate Ben Silverman. With “Ugly Betty,” “The Office” and “Nashville Star” to his credit, the producer with a knack for adapting foreign shows for American audiences is certainly flying high in Hollywood. But he’s not stopping there.

''I want to go into public service,'' Silverman, who earned a degree in history from Tufts in 1992, told The New York Times. ''I want to do something where my skills would be useful, maybe chief marketing officer for America.''

But jumping headfirst into the public service arena is a far-off goal for the 36-year-old Silverman, who says that he’s very much focused on the present—and growing his career as a producer.

"I'm far from comfortable," Silverman told TelevisionWeek. “By no means am I sitting on the 16th year of ‘Law and Order,’ or even the 100th episode of ‘Deal or No Deal.’ It's one episode at a time."

While Silverman is taking it slowly, his shows are on a faster track. In their first and third seasons, respectively, ABC’s “Ugly Betty” and NBC’s “The Office” are two of Thursday’s most-watched shows. And both series—which Silverman adapted from foreign programming—were nominated for the Golden Globe award for best TV comedy this year, with “Ugly Betty” taking home the trophy.

“I’m like the Thursday night storm of programming,” Silverman, whose “Nashville Star” also airs on Thursdays on USA Network, told TelevisionWeek. His other projects include NBC’s "The Biggest Loser,” FX's "30 Days” and the NBC pilot “I’m With Stupid.” Silverman’s production company, Reveille, also recently inked a deal with MSN to develop original online programming.

A fixture in Hollywood since 2001, Silverman has become known for his ability to anticipate which foreign shows will catch fire with American audiences. According to The New York Times, he has “an intuition;” he told the newspaper that when he views a new program, “it comes down to, do I feel it?''

But Silverman has found inspiration closer to home, as well.

"It's about scouring the world, including America, for the best ideas," he told The New York Post. "I'm always looking for something to build the idea around and some accessible entry point, whether it existed before as a television show, is taken from history, or a big topic, like weight loss.”

Silverman sees shows like “The Biggest Loser,” which focuses on fitness, and “Ugly Betty,” which tackles beauty and immigration issues as being entertainment with a positive message. He hopes someday to take that idea a step further.

“I've worked every day around the world with international production companies and know about messaging and pro-social programming,” he told TelevisionWeek. The publication reported that Silverman sees himself creating a nonprofit or “becoming ‘minister of propaganda’ for a progressive-minded White House.”

“I want to promote America, the great liberty found in a capitalist democracy," he told TelevisionWeek. But he added that a career in public service “is still years away.”

“I’m only 36,” he told the publication.

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